The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Spotsylvania officials deny plans for a tax to support raceway
Spotsylvania County officials are denying a report that they plan to fund road improvements for the proposed Dominion Raceway on the backs of businesses in Thornburg.
The Coalition to Preserve the Thornburg Countryside, which has waged an aggressive campaign against the racetrack, sent a press release Monday evening titled “Supervisors propose tax to pay for raceway needs.”
The release attributes the information to “citizens with whom supervisors spoke.” It says the county would tax businesses in Thornburg to fund transportation upgrades that the Virginia Department of Transportation is requiring of Dominion Raceway.
Board of Supervisors Chairman Paul Trampe said he thinks the idea for a special tax district came from raceway officials. The county already has such districts, which tax commercial property owners to pay for nearby infrastructure improvements.
If that were to happen in Thornburg, Trampe said, only the raceway and other new commercial development on track-owned property would be taxed—not existing businesses.
Meanwhile, Fredericksburg attorney Charlie Payne, who represents the racetrack, said the developer had “in no way, shape or form” asked the county to impose such a tax.
Supervisors Ann Heidig, Emmitt Marshall, Timothy McLaughlin and Benjamin Pitts told The Free Lance–Star that they hadn’t heard about plans for a tax district in Thornburg. Marshall did say it could be discussed in the future.
Pitts said he’s not accepting emails and phone calls about the raceway until the proposed development is presented to supervisors.
“So, if somebody’s saying that the Board of Supervisors is thinking about a special tax district, that’s news to this supervisor,” he said.
McLaughlin said he hadn’t spoken to raceway developer Steve Britt yet.
“We haven’t even seen what the developer’s proposing or whether or not VDOT can even support their plan,” he said.
The raceway has applied for a VDOT waiver that, if approved, would allow it to construct its entrance near an Interstate 95 ramp. VDOT recently said it could not approve the request, at least until the developer addressed a host of questions and concerns.
The raceway is also seeking a rezoning and special-use permit from the county, in addition to amendments to Spotsylvania’s development plan. The Planning Commission will make recommendations, and supervisors will have the final say on all of those proposals.
Supervisor Gary Skinner said he’s mentioned—but not proposed—a special service district as a possibility for Thornburg.
“I think the coalition is trying to stop it in its tracks when it’s not fair to do that yet,” Skinner said of the raceway.
He noted that the county has been discussing traffic issues in Thornburg long before the raceway was proposed.
The county plans to develop cost estimates for transportation fixes at the Massaponax and Thornburg interchanges and strategies to fund those upgrades.
Trampe called the idea of a special tax district in Thornburg “plausible” but said he’d oppose taxing businesses that are already there. “That’s certainly one way to pay for the transportation improvements that would be needed,” said Trampe, who said he’s undecided on the raceway.
Joyce Ackerman, president of the anti-raceway coalition, said two of the group’s members say they heard about plans for a tax district from two supervisors.
The coalition’s concerns include noise, traffic and the raceway’s effect on property values.
“This whole thing, it’s so troubling,” Ackerman said. “It’s personal.”
Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
The Spotsylvania Planning Commission is scheduled to have a public hearing tonight at 7 on Dominion Raceway’s proposed amendments to the county Comprehensive Plan. The changes would make the development compatible with the plan. The hearing will take place at the Holbert Building, 9104 Courthouse Road, weather permitting.